Cops: Teen Leafblower Pranksters Hit Irvine Fast-Food Joint Before Newport Beach Theater

UPDATE NO. 2, AUG. 12, 12:04 P.M.: “Preliminary investigation shows that the subjects were at a fast-food establishment in Irvine in a silver Ford truck, approximately one hour before the incident at the movie theater,” says Jennifer Manzella, the Newport Beach Police spokeswoman, in an update. “There, the subjects activated a leaf-blower and pointed it at people nearby to elicit a reaction.” The foursome then proceeded to the Edwards Big Newport 6 movie theater in Newport Beach, she said. “At least one subject entered Theater No. 3, activated the leaf-blower, held it above his head, and yelled, causing the disturbance described in the original press release,” explained Manzella, who described the investigation as “still active and ongoing.”


UPDATE NO. 1, AUG. 12, 9:06 A.M.: Boredom in paradise can lead teens to do things without thinking. For instance, at a time when innocent moviegoers are being blown away in the nation's cineplexes by deranged asshats, four teens pulled what probably sounded like a really fine prank at the time: busting into an Edwards Big Newport theater and revving up a leafblower. The Newport Beach Police Department issued a statement last night saying, “All subjects sought in our press release from earlier today have been identified. Detectives have been conducting interviews and the subjects have been cooperative. More information will be released [today].” By then, television news reports had shown parents ushering their teen children into the police station on the opposite side of Newport Center from the theater. That was a few hours after the press release went out with multiple images pulled from surveillance video of the leafblower pranksters and the truck they used to make their getaway as panicked viewers of The Gift made mad dashes for the exits, leading to minor injuries for three of them Saturday morning.


ORIGINAL POST, AUG. 10, 11:29 A.M.: Other than Jonnathan Demme, Meryl Streep and Diablo Cody–the director, star and writer respectively of Ricki and the Flash, which finished below The Gift at the weekend box office–I don't know who would have anything against the Fatal Attractionesque thriller starring Jason Bateman. But two or three males busted into the Saturday morning showing at Edwards Big Newport 6 and cranked up a leafblower, prompting the spooked audience to head for the exits, causing minor injuries to three patrons.

Perhaps the mischief makers were chamber of commerce types who did not appreciate the depiction of Newport Beach in Arrested Development, which starred Bateman in his breakout role of Michael Bluth.

Arrested Development and the OC-ification of America

Newport Beach Police Department's Dispatch Center received several 9-1-1 emergency calls in reference to a disturbance at the Newport Center Drive theater just after 10:50 a.m. Saturday, according to Jennifer Manzella, the agency's spokeswoman. “Callers reported that two or more men had entered a theater with some type of loud, handheld machine, later determined to be a leafblower,” she said.

Responding officers set up a perimeter around the theater and went inside to investigate, but “it was determined the suspects had fled the area,” Manzella said. Their only description was white, and possibly Hispanic, in their late teens to early 30s.

The trio had arranged to open the secured emergency exit door at the front of Theater No. 3 during the screening of The Gift before one of them walked in holding a leafblower over his head, said Manzella, who added he “yelled, shook the leafblower and revved the leafblower's engine to create a loud and disturbing noise.”

Several seconds later, the intruders and people inside the theater left, the spokeswoman said. “Due to the disturbance created by the leafblower, patrons inside at the time of the incident rushed out of the theater,” she explained. “Three individuals suffered minor injuries in their haste to exit the theater.”

Her department believes that the motive was not to screw up weekend box office numbers but to scare movie-goers, Manzella said. This investigation is ongoing and anyone with information about the fellows or why they did what they did is asked to contact Detective Joshua Vincelet at 949.644.3779 or at jv*******@nb**.org. Tips may also be left anonymously on the Newport Beach Police Department's tip hotline at 1.800.550.NBPD.

Meanwhile, distributor STX Entertainment was thrilled by the relatively small thriller's opening weekend box office that had The Gift at No. 3 in the country behind the latest Mission Impossible flick and the under-performing Fantastic Four.

Traffic for The Gift actually jumped 10 percent from Friday to Saturday, which is nothing to shake a leafblower at!

Email: mc****@oc******.com. Twitter: @MatthewTCoker. Follow OC Weekly on Twitter @ocweekly or on Facebook!

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